MaryLou Dion, 91
MaryLou Dion passed away Tuesday, April 16, 2019. Born MaryLou Snook on July 25, 1927, in Spirit Lake, Idaho, she was the eldest daughter of Melvin and Lilly Agnes Snook (nee Redford).
If MaryLou had a defining characteristic, it was her passion for music combined with a preternatural talent for being able to play anything she’d heard. It was evident early on; she began her piano studies at age 4, when her aunt started teaching her to play popular songs by ear — everything from jazz to ragtime and swing. Next came formal lessons when she was 8. By age 9 she was playing in church for Bible school. Then in high school, she formed a musical trio with her good friends, Alyce Smith and Jeanne Talbott. The group was chosen to perform when Father Flanagan (of Boys’ Town fame) made a stop in St. Maries, Idaho, on a fundraising tour.
She would often recount stories of her childhood and helping in the logging camp as her father’s company logged the northern Idaho country around Spirit Lake, St. Maries and the St. Joe River. The family settled for a time in St. Maries in 1937 and finally moved to Orofino in 1945, where Melvin had been logging since 1941.
She met Joseph Dion in 1946 while they were attending the University of Idaho. Their respective musical affiliations made for a natural attraction: she played piano and sang and Joe played the drums (also, he had a racy little sports car, which didn’t hurt his chances).
They were wed soon after Joe had graduated and begun his career as an Air Force officer. Daughter Christy and son Jonathan arrived in 1949 and 1950, respectively. As the family grew to include four more children, her years as the daughter of an independent logging contractor seemed only slightly less nomadic: they were posted to Sioux Falls, S.D.; Omaha, Neb.; the Philippines; Laurel, Md., and Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Wherever the random whims of Air Force postings sent them, MaryLou saw to it that their government-issued house was indeed a home. And wherever she found herself, MaryLou immersed herself in music, offering her services to local congregations (she’d converted to Catholicism before being married), providing musical backing to small theater groups and making sure her children experienced the excitement of entertaining. To ensure that the transition from military to civilian life would be a little easier, the family requested that their last transfer was Mountain Home, Idaho.
When Joe retired in 1970, he and MaryLou settled in Joe’s hometown of Emmett, Idaho, with their four youngest children. MaryLou became the musical director for Sacred Heart Catholic Church and was a member of the first Diocesan Liturgy Commission. She also taught piano and vocals to area students and accompanied for local groups and performances. She and Joe even got their duo back together and lit up the night-life scene in Boise for a stint at G-J’s Lounge in the lower level of the Idanha Building.
When time permitted, the family would visit her parents’ property in the hills outside Orofino, Idaho. MaryLou and Joe instilled in their children a healthy respect for the outdoors on these visits, marching the kids up and down miles of dirt roads to experience fresh air, exercise and get some sense of what her childhood was like.
Several years after that, they moved to Coeur d’Alene and found a permanent home. Even though Joe was retired, “retirement” for MaryLou included piano lessons for hundreds of students and countless accompanist gigs at churches, local theater extravaganzas, Dalton Elementary’s “Road Crew” (their incredible touring choir), 3C’s Coeur d’Aleers, Rotary Club and the Coeur d’Alene Big Band. She entertained at area senior care facilities and almost always had a calendar full of weddings, funerals and receptions.
MaryLou was preceded in death by her parents; her brother, William Snook of Orofino and her husband, who died in 2015. She is survived by her sister, Evelyn; daughters, Christy and Patricia (Tom); sons, Jonathan “JJ” (Bob), Michael (Jean), Steven (Paula) and Joseph III (Jody); grandchildren, Lina, Jake, Piper, Jack, Grace and Katie; and great-grandchildren, Isaiah, Bearett and Floyd.
A funeral mass will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, May 25, 2019, at St. Pius X Catholic Church, 625 E. Haycraft Ave., Coeur d’Alene, ID 83815. A viewing will begin at 10 a.m. with, praying of The Rosary at 10:30. A reception will follow in the St. Pius Parish Hall. Former students, musical groups and theater colleagues who would like to pay tribute to MaryLou at the reception/celebration can email Patti Freeman at email@example.com.
A graveside service will take place at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, May 28, 2019, at Greenwood Cemetery, 400 10th Ave., Spirit Lake, ID 83869.
The family wishes to thank the staff at Renaissance Care Facility for the expert, loving care MaryLou received in her final years. Contributions may be made in memory of MaryLou to Hospice of North Idaho, 2290 W. Prairie Ave., Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, 83815 (or visit their website, www.hospiceofnorthidaho.org/donate/) or The North Idaho Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, 1042 W. Mill Ave., Coeur d’Alene, ID 83814.
Yates Funeral Home, Coeur d’Alene is in care of arrangements and you may visit MaryLou’s online memorial and sign her guest book at www.yatesfuneralhomes.com.